The accident-prone copywriter and how to tell if you have one in your business

The accident-prone copywriter

There’s a sign in the window of my local dry cleaners.

“Armed guards & dogs on site. Enter at own risk.”

It’s not a jokey sign; it’s one of those issued by security companies.

Presumably, the copywriting here is supposed to persuade passing criminals that the day’s takings are not worth a bite, a bullet or both.

The problem is that the claim is absurd. What dry cleaner in Sydney employs 24-hour armed security guards and pays for attack dogs to keep them company? Money launderers, maybe. Dry cleaners, definitely not.

So what’s the problem? Isn’t the worst thing that could happen that a criminal doesn’t believe you and breaks in anyway?

The problem is that the sign accidentally sets a tone.

Its claim might be ludicrous, but the dry cleaner still felt the claim was worth making. That sends an unintentional message to the reader that they’re standing in a high-crime area. It suggests this dry cleaner has been a particular target. It suggests the reader and their clothes might be safer going elsewhere.

I know, I know. You think I’m overthinking.

Copywriters aren’t normal people, which is handy for you…

I might be over-articulating because this isn’t something normal (not copywriters) people would see, think about and say. But the vibe is something your subconscious will pick up — whether it sends your conscious mind an email about it or not.

When you walk down Manly Corso on a Friday night and there are five police cars in the usually pedestrianised area, do you feel safe or do you wonder why the police think it’s necessary?

When you walk into a shop sprayed with aggressive notices — no food and drink, no dogs, no touching the goods — do you feel welcome — even if you have no food, no drink, no dog and no plans to touch? Or do you feel that you might be walking into a minefield?

Writing is words + tone

Tone and perception are essential parts of copywriting.

If you promise speed and efficiency to “time poor professionals”, your copywriting is hurting your case if it takes you 1,000 words and a dozen flavours of jargon to make a point. That’s not fast. It’s not efficient.

If you promise decades of expertise, you’re hurting yourself if your blog posts offer all the insight of a paraphrased Wikipedia entry.

The other day, I reviewed the website of a doctor with a ritzy address. The promise was life-changing surgery for people with a particularly socially embarrassing condition. The words and the quality of the website generally suggested you’d be less likely to have your life changed than to be found dumped in an alley if things go wrong.

In this case, the doctor is a dedicated and genuine expert, but that didn’t stop his copywriting and web design accidentally sending an entirely different impression.

And the impression won — it was reflected in the website’s conversion rate scraping the bottom of the graph.

There’s something you want your readers to believe and there’s something you want them to do.

Copywriting is about using words to achieve both things. But an accident-prone copywriter can do the opposite. They can persuade your readers to believe the wrong thing and do the opposite of what you want.

Are you the victim of an accident-prone copywriter?

Your business is brilliant; your clients are thrilled; but you’ve got a lot on your plate, and reviewing your copywriting is just part of it. Put those things together and it’s easy to have a few accidents.

Sometimes all it takes is to have an external pair of eyes review your copywriting from the point of view of your ideal client. If you’d like a review of your website by a professional copywriter